by Josh Liu
All Church Retreat is a special time for the whole church family to gather together for a weekend of personal fellowship and intense study of God’s Word. As the church grows (by God’s grace), these opportunities for whole-church intimacy become increasingly important. In serving in College Life, I am always encouraged by the collegians’ investment and participation in their church family.
The 2017 All Church Retreat (Nov. 3-5) focused on the theme, “The Mission Minded Church.” Tim Carns, pastor of missions and discipleship at Calvary Bible Church in Burbank, CA, gave four sessions: (1) A Mission-Minded God (Eph. 1:9-10, 4:11-16; Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 2:2); (2) A Mission-Minded Gospel (1 Cor. 2:1-5; Zech. 4:4-7); (3) A Mission-Minded Home (Deut. 6:4-9; Ps. 78:1-8; Matt. 5:13-16); and (4) A Mission-Minded Heart (Jonah). In reflecting on the retreat and messages, here are brief interview responses from some of our students:
Pastor Tim Carns gave me a much-needed reminder that it is only the gospel that saves. No, not even vibrant and “hip” ministry events. No, not even spectacular and ear-appealing worship songs. No, not even pious and excellent conduct in the workplace. It is so easy to twist the simplicity and the beauty of the truth that the gospel saves. Sure, events, songs, and proper conduct are helpful towards the gospel ministry, but it should never replace the gospel itself. I definitely fall into this incorrect thinking too often—that Christ needs my extra work to save people. Then it becomes the gospel AND my deeds that save people. But rather it is only the gospel that saves. And I must depend upon that, not my works, to save people. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16 )
Pastor Tim Carns’ message on “The Mission-Minded Home” was, for me, a much-needed reminder of God’s grace in bringing my parents to salvation and working in them to foster faithfulness in my family. Like many others who grew up in a Christian home, I went to church every week, read Christian books, and attended kid’s programs like AWANA and BSF. For many church kids, these activities feel so normal. We don’t always realize how much our parents have blessed us by fostering the attitude of a mission-minded home. However, hearing Pastor Tim emphasize the importance of teaching sound doctrine and biblical character helped me recognize how faithful my parents have been in ministering to their mission field at home. When I first started college and moved away from family, the influence they had on me became more important than ever. As a collegian, I still look back on their wisdom and teaching and apply them to the way I live my life now. I’m thankful for my family and their faithfulness, and most of all, I thank God for using them as instruments to preach the Gospel to me.
This year’s All Church Retreat theme about how to be a mission minded church was a great reminder of God’s will for my life here on earth. I was reminded of how it is only by God’s grace that I am able to receive the Holy Spirit and receive salvation through Jesus Christ.
The session on how to be a mission-minded home stood out to me the most. Although I don’t have believing parents, I am still able to witness the faithfulness of the parents at Lighthouse and see how they teach their children, truly hoping to see their child know Christ. It also reminded me that my focus on evangelism shouldn’t be solely towards peers and overlook the children—they are lost souls as well in need of a Savior.
Other than the messages, I think it was just encouraging to meet other people in the church from different life stages and be encouraged by how God has been challenging them. We may not be in the same area all the time, but we are able to still share this special bond in knowing that we are God’s children and instruments in furthering His kingdom!
A convicting lesson I took from retreat this year was the necessity, urgency, and beauty of sharing the gospel, and the need to be mindful of where my hope in evangelism is founded. Oftentimes, in the workplace and at school, I have bolstered my timidity to share the gospel with the mentality that my example will be enough to show people who Christ is. In Pastor Tim Carns’ second message, he challenged this mentality by quoting Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” Pastor Tim emphasized that only the gospel, illumined by the work of the Holy Spirit, can save. I realized that to think my example alone is sufficient to bring people to Christ is to deny that the sole and sovereign work of God is the only means to salvation. I was reminded that we are not to be ashamed of the gospel, for only the gospel saves. And I was challenged to confront my Jonah-like heart, the heart that is quick to forget God’s mercy to save me, realizing that desiring salvation for and sharing the gospel with others is learning to love them more than I love my comfort.
One significant lesson I learned was how the events that go on during our lives all point toward God’s greater plan. Session #1 was a huge reminder of how I have to break away from the tunnel vision I have on my own goals and desires in life to be a part of His bigger mission to preach and live the Gospel. It’s never my will that needs to be done, but His will. Ephesians 1:9-10 tells us that the mystery of His will is supposed to be revealed to us, not just figured out on our own. It is not us writing our own plans for what will happen in the future but God. All that we gain in wisdom and insight is a gift from God, and all of the actions we do and efforts we take to serve one another and/or evangelize are planned in advance by God. Therefore, I am to realize that the race we run is to fill a specific role chosen by God to see that Christ is lifted up to the ends of the earth. I pray that I can continue to prioritize Him first when managing my time, gifts, and resources so that I can fill my spot in His ongoing mission to make disciples of all nations!
My most memorable moment from retreat was the encouragement and honesty that came from members of our church family during the time of sharing. Growing up, I’ve always heard the ambitious and passionate cry for missions being preached to students and children, but seeing that call for being “mission-minded” is for all of us as believers of Christ regardless of the particular life stage the person is simply a sober joy for me.
One significant lesson I learned was how the Book of Jonah turns itself to check the reader towards the end of the book. Essentially, God not only looks at the act of living “mission-minded” lives but he also checks the heart and motive to show his just mercy towards traitors and rebels like ourselves. It is by God’s grace we live “mission-minded” lives. In application of the messages I’m going to commit to praying and asking the Lord to show me areas where I am dull and careless about his mission and to turn and seek to weave Gospel-centered conversations in my own daily life. Whether working, studying, or serving, I seek to daily remember that, ultimately, we live for a “Mission-minded God.”
This past retreat God made it evident to me that I do not simply reside at LBCSD as a student leader of College Life, but that my membership makes me part of the whole of the local church, and that I should not neglect to fellowship with the whole church body (Hebrews 10:24-25). Seeing the way our church emphasizes the wisdom of God, even to the children’s ministry has humbled me, because only in the Word can true wisdom be found. Wisdom apart from the Word is not wisdom, but foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:18-20), and God, through Sonlight, further expanded the priceless value of His wisdom to me when they led worship. God’s wisdom is timeless just as He is eternal (Psalm 102:23-28), whether you are just learning to walk or old enough to teach your little ones to walk.